SAN DIEGO—A historic night at the 7th Bridge to the Future Gala in San Diego saw the completion of funding for the first phase of construction of the new Armenian church campus, with more than $2.3 million in major philanthropic gifts.
The Very Reverend Pakrad Dz. V. Berjekian, Parish Priest of St. John Garabed Armenian Church, announced that a $2 million gift for the naming of the Godfather of the Sanctuary was given by Lois Israelian Butterfield of Palm Desert, formerly of San Diego, and her husband, David Butterfield. The new church sanctuary will be named Israelian, in recognition of Lois’ Armenian heritage, in which her grandfather of blessed memory was instrumental. The monumental donation will go towards the construction and naming of the new sanctuary.
Western Primate Archbishop Hovnan Derderian then shared his joyful remarks and invocation in response to the surprise news.
The generosity continued, as $100,000 gift was announced from Paul and Rosemary Kalemkiarian. Mr. and Mrs. Paul Kalemkiarian, Jr. and Judge Sharon Kalemkiarian, and her husband Dr. Rey Galindo, were in attendance representing their parents, who had already generously donated $100,000 toward the new church campus last year.
Gala Guest of Honor, Judge Sharon Kalemkiarian of the San Diego Superior Court, spoke on the importance of the Armenian family she was raised in and talked about how the new church is being modeled after St. Hripsime Church near Etchmiadzin, Armenia. She cited the example of St. Hripsime herself, whose martyrdom precipitated the events that resulted in Armenia becoming the first Christian nation. She also encouraged the young women and girls in the audience to dream big and make a difference in the world.
Funds were also raised, as a $100,000 match of the Kalemkiarian gift during the Fund a Need part of the program, led by Master of Ceremonies Pierre Charmasson, Honored Guest Miss Nebraska Alexis Najarian of the Miss USA Pageant, and the three gala co-chairs: Kathy Kassardjian, Dr. Anna Khachatrian Kulidjian and Emilia Arutunian, Esq. Several live auction items including travel and dining also raised significant funding for the church.
Academy Award-winning actor Richard Dreyfuss made a special appearance, attending with his wife Svetlana. He said that Armenians are not defined by the terrible thing that happened to them (genocide), but by the many wonderful qualities and accomplishments of the Armenian people.
During dinner, the talented Vegas-style entertainer Mark Verabian captivated the more than 250 guests with his Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin song stylings.
The lively Allen G and Orchestra kept the guests dancing all night with both Armenian and American favorites.
Special remarks were also made by San Diego District Attorney, Summer Stephan, who is Armenian, and Judge Dana Sabraw of the United States Federal District Court for the Southern District.
Dr. Armen Baibourtian, Consul General of Armenia in Los Angeles, attended with his wife Yvette and shared his esteemed remarks and support for the new campus.
Other VIP guests included:
- Judge Albert Harutunian of the San Diego Superior Court, and his wife Rebecca Blair;
- Supervisor Greg Cox of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors and his wife, the former mayor of the city of Chula Vista, Cheryl Cox;
- Archpriest Manoug Markarian of St. John Garabed Armenian Church, Western Diocese, Hollywood, CA;
- Berdj Karabedian, Chairman of the Armenian American Museum in Glendale, and his wife Mary;
- Levon Filian, West Coast Executive Director of the Armenian Missionary Association of America, and his wife Dr. Liliana Filian;
- Nina Hachigian, the Deputy Mayor of International Affairs for Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti;
- Joe Kellejian, former Mayor of Solana Beach, and his wife Mary;
- Dr. Robert Aboolian, Chairman of the St. John Garabed Parish Council, and his wife Bianca;
- Harry Krikorian, Chairman of the St. John Garabed Trust Fund Committee, and his wife Linda;
- Jim Sahagian, Chairman of the St. John Building Committee, and his wife Jane.
The land grading has already begun at the new church property, as shown in an exciting video during the gala, which included some of the youth in the community talking about the need for a new church.
Some of the church’s talented youth – Alexa and Kayla Belmer, Ani and Mari Kradjian, Arno and Vaughn Janoyan, and Sona and Lia Danielyan – performed the Armenian and American national anthems, and the classic “Yerevan Erebouni,” led by Sona Baghdasaryan.
For more information about St. John Garabed Armenian Church or the new church property, visit the website.